I recently finished reading 100 Shades of White, a work of fiction by Preethi Nair. When I read the back cover of the novel, I perceived it to be yet another tale of ‘East Meets West’.
However, as I read it page after page, I realised it’s a good and a captivating story about a woman who, with her determination and hard-work, upholds her and her children’s pride in a foreign land. Due to some adverse circumstances, she tells a lie to her children to protect them, but that very lie comes back to uproot their lives. The story revolves around this white lie.
Satchin and Maya enjoy a carefree life in India with their mother Nalini and father Raul who is frequently travelling on business trips. Unexpectedly, he sends for his wife and children to join him in London. However, he ruthlessly abandons them and leaves them penniless. Nalini lies to the children that their father died in an accident. Her fight to upkeep the self-respect and survival in an alien culture is the central theme of the novel. I could actually inhale the pungent aroma of the exotic pickles cooked by Nalini.
The novel takes you from the beautiful, conservative Kerala to the bustling Mumbai and then to the faraway, alien land London. In the later part of the book, Maya visits Kerala and Mumbai again and finds out the Truth, thereby completing a full circle.
The narration of the story is quite interesting. It starts with Maya’s perspective and alternates with Nalini’s. But there is a natural flow to the story.
The final chapters of the novel bring out the best in the author as with these she succeeds in leaving a lasting impression on the readers and brings out her insight into human nature.
Though I know Malayalam, I feel there should have been a glossary for the Malayalam terms so that it could leave more scope for appreciation.
Nevertheless, it is an easy book to read, and should be recommended to others. I look forward to reading some of Ms Nair’s other novels.